KIDS Consortium's Blog

Seven Misconceptions about How Students Learn: Game-Changers for Authentic Learning

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Professional Development, Service-Learning by tharkins on February 17, 2012

Just read another article that hit home for me.   “Seven Misconceptions about How Students Learn,” written by Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post.

It discusses the misconceptions that many people believe about education, that are blocking true learning.  Over the past few decades we have learned a lot about how students learn and these misconceptions don’t fit with the science.

Here is the list of misconceptions and Strauss’s comments on each.

Basic Facts Come Before True Learning

This one translates roughly as, “Students must do the boring stuff before they can do the interesting stuff.” Or, “Students must memorize before they can be allowed to think.” In truth, students are most likely to achieve long-term mastery of basic facts in the context of engaging, student-directed learning.

 Rigorous Education Means a Teacher Talking

Teachers have knowledge to impart, but durable learning is more likely when students talk, create, and integrate knowledge into meaningful projects. The art of a teacher is to construct ways for students to discover.

Covering It Means Teaching It

Teachers are often seduced by the idea that if they talk about a concept in class, they have taught it. At best, students get tentative ideas that will be quickly forgotten if not reinforced by a student-centered activity.

 Teaching to Student Interests Means Dumbing It Down

If we could somehow see inside a student’s brain, its circuitry would correspond to its knowledge. Since new learning always builds on what is already in the brain, teachers must relate classroom teaching to what students already know. Teachers who fail to do so, whether due to ignorance or in pursuit of a false idea of rigor, are running afoul of a biological reality.

 Acceleration Means Rigor

Some schools accelerate strong students so that they can cover more material. Schools in the Independent Curriculum Group are more likely to ask such students to delve deeper into important topics. Deep knowledge lays a stronger foundation for later learning.

 A Quiet Classroom Means Good Learning

Students sitting quietly may simply be zoned out — if not immediately, then within 15 minutes. A loud classroom, if properly controlled, includes the voices of many students who are actively engaged.

 Traditional Schooling Prepares Students for Life

Listening to teachers and studying for tests has little to do with life in the world of work. People in the work world create, manage, evaluate, communicate, and collaborate.

This article made me think about the many wonderful teachers that I work with across the country and the engaging classrooms that they create.  As they implement high quality service-learning projects with their students, they go against all the misconceptions above.

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  1. Fran Rudoff said, on February 17, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Thanks for sharing this, Tracy.


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